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The Protector

For many kids coming up in the ghettos of America, they live the life that the late Christopher Wallace once rhymed about: “Either you’re slingin’ rock or you got a wicked jump shot”—it’s a motto that rings true for anyone who’s striving to carve their name amongst the clouds. Luckily, hip-hop has emerged as an alternative way out. Since emerging as a way for ghetto youth to express their rage, humor and style, hip-hop has spawned an entire industry in its wake, from artist to executive to behind-the-scenes ghostwriter.

Someone who’s successfully playing both sides of the fence right now is Bad Boy Entertainment recording artist Aasim, a native of Queens, NY. The former Loud Records flame-spitter has aligned himself with the Diddy to cash those checks that Mr. Press Play has been known to write. Speaking of writing, check the credits—Aasim penned many of the bars on Diddy’s new album while plotting his own debut, due out in 2007. BBE’s new franchise player sat down with to talk about ghostwriting for Diddy, what he learned from his former Loud label mates, and how he plans to continue B.I.G.’s legacy.

Listen to:
Aasim feat. Diddy “And U Say NYC” (2006)

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XXL’s Elliott Wilson recently said that you’re the man behind a lot of the lyrics on Press Play. How was the creative process behind making the album and what are your hopes for your upcoming debut?
Press Play was crazy! It was a year and a half of just studio, studio, studio, traveling, being everywhere that Puff was. When I write for people, I want to know exactly who they are, to be in their life and see everything from their personal standpoint. He allowed me to get into that cipher. He taught me how to take more pride and time into putting a song together. People don’t really understand how to make a song, they think that it’s so easy, but I learned how to construct a hit. That experience taught me that my album has to be crazy. I have to be more than a perfectionist. I’m obsessed with making sure that the album is better than the rest. I’ve been working on it everyday, for 16-20 hours a day, seven days a week, ever since we wrapped Press Play.

At 17, you were signed to Loud Records, along with Big Pun and dead prez. What did you take away from that experience?
What I took from Pun were skills on how to make songs. From him, I learned how to come up with hooks and how to put a song together. I learned from watching him. I learned that you have to have a vision for the song. You have to know where you want it to go. Pun used to take a beat CD, play it for about a minute or so, rewind it back and forth, then listen to it again. He would write a whole song to that one minute and sixteen seconds. What I learned from dead prez was that you basically had to have more content in your music. Hip-hop is about more than what you own and what you’ve done in your past. I want to make sure that I don’t just put out some mindless music. I learned from them that you don’t have to be afraid to speak your mind. Whether it’s about politics or something personal, you just have to speak your mind.

While with Loud, you got caught up in legal issues, which prevented your debut from coming out. Bad Boy has let a lot of artists sit on the shelf too. Are you worried about the same thing happening?
Nah…the Loud situation was totally different from Bad Boy’s. I had a production deal with Loud. They didn’t necessary want the production company, they wanted the artist. But with me being a loyal cat, I stayed with the production company [Grind Music] and left the label. Right now, honestly, I want to do my part to bring the label back. There are a lot of skeptics right now who don’t believe that Bad Boy can get back to where it was before with B.I.G., Craig Mack, Carl Thomas and 112. I want my album to be anticipated and to be crazy hot. We set dates here and there for it to come out, but it wasn’t ready yet.

“And U Say NYC” leaked a few months ago, but otherwise, your solo stuff has been pretty much under wraps. What’s kept you motivated?
I guess when you want something, you just keep going hard for it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing promos, freestyles or whatever. I have a passion and a love for this. I was doing this before I was making money off of rap. Now it’s just inspiration because I’m able to provide for my family and eat off of a passion. I have the good fortune to keep people around me who keep me motivated to continue to push for the future.

The name Aasim means “protector” or “guardian” in Arabic. How does your name relate to hip-hop?
I think music has kept me out of a lot of trouble. I could’ve been doing a lot worst. It’s been my protector. But I also feel like I’m the protector and guardian of hip-hop. There’s a younger generation that doesn’t know anything about the sound of hip-hop. The boom-bap, the heavy bassline, those types of things, you know? I don’t think that they see a cat shining with his lyrics. You have some of the classic cats out there saying that “hip-hop is dead.” But even if they feel like it is, I want them to know that there’s someone out there who’s trying to keep this alive. I have a song called “Raw” and it’s basically the rawest essence of hip-hop. From the beat to the flow, to how I say my lines, it really embodies how I feel. It’s going to shock the world.

In 2007, it will have been 10 years since B.I.G.’s passing. Diddy says that you’re the lead-man for the new Bad Boy era. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I pray that I’m a billionaire. B.I.G. was B.I.G., and there will never be another one like him. I would never try to fill those shoes or anything like that. It’s unfortunate that he lost his life. It’s sad that I never got a chance to work with him. I would try and spread the message that beefing and all that bullshit in hip-hop isn’t really cool. I want to take some of the street seriousness out of the game, where shit changes and egos don’t clash as much. I heard ’Pac say that he wanted to spark the brain of the person who changed the world. Well, B.I.G. and ’Pac were pieces of a puzzle and I want to add onto that framework. I want to live the way that I’m supposed to and leave my mark the way I am going to. I can’t ask for anything more than that.

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